Yellow perch Perca flavescens support economically important recreational and commercial fisheries in Lake Erie and are intensively managed. Age estimation represents an integral component in the management of Lake Erie yellow perch stocks, as age-structured population models are used to set safe harvest levels on an annual basis. We compared the precision associated with yellow perch (N = 251) age estimates from scales, sagittal otoliths, and anal spine sections and evaluated the time required to process and estimate age from each structure. Three readers of varying experience estimated ages. The precision (mean coefficient of variation) of estimates among readers was 1% for sagittal otoliths, 5-6% for anal spines, and 11-13% for scales. Agreement rates among readers were 94-95% for otoliths, 71-76% for anal spines, and 45-50% for scales. Systematic age estimation differences were evident among scale and anal spine readers; less-experienced readers tended to underestimate ages of yellow perch older than age 4 relative to estimates made by an experienced reader. Mean scale age tended to underestimate ages of age-6 and older fish relative to otolith ages estimated by an experienced reader. Total annual mortality estimates based on scale ages were 20% higher than those based on otolith ages; mortality estimates based on anal spine ages were 4% higher than those based on otolith ages. Otoliths required more removal and preparation time than scales and anal spines, but age estimation time was substantially lower for otoliths than for the other two structures. We suggest the use of otoliths or anal spines for age estimation in yellow perch (regardless of length) from Lake Erie and other systems where precise age estimates are necessary, because age estimation errors resulting from the use of scales could generate incorrect management decisions. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2008.
Additional publication details
Lake Erie Yellow perch age estimation based on three structures: Precision, processing times, and management implications